Highlands & Islands

I Heart Bella: How festival's biggest fans may just be its performers

Image caption Danny MacAskill describes Belladrum as some of the best shows he does all year

This weekend marks the 13th Belladrum Tartan Heart music festival near Beauly in the Highlands. Two of this year's acts - Skye-born street trials cyclist Danny MacAskill and Glasgow band Gun have told BBC News Scotland online why appearing at Bella is important to them.

464 gray line

MacAskill is sitting on a large box, part of the rig, or in simple terms large objects that aid his and his Drop and Roll show team-mates' stunts.

Watching eagerly from the sidelines of the arena where MacAskill is sitting is a large crowd, still catching its breath from the trials cyclists' last display.

"The crowds at Belladrum have been brilliant," says MacAskill.

"It is for me a very local event. Coming from Skye, Belladrum is only 120 miles away," says the cyclist who can often be found many, many hundreds of miles away in exotic world locations.

"Obviously from being from up here more folk have seen my videos and are very aware of what I do. At Belladrum, there is also definitely a cool interaction with the crowds, especially with the kids. They are some of the best shows we do all year. Some of the busiest and some of the loudest crowds. We know how to make a noise in the Highlands."

After Bella, Drop and Roll will entertain crowds at Ascot during the staging of a Red Bull aircraft race and then it is on to Zurich before venues in Germany.

'Death-defying'

"I'm filming a new video in between all that," adds MacAskill, but declines to give details of what his latest YouTube extravaganza will involve.

His previous films have featured death-defying stunts, performed high on Skye's Cuillin Ridge and rooftops in a sun-kissed Canary Islands location.

He says: "I like to keep the whereabouts and what I'm up to a little bit of a secret.

"It is always good to have a bit of surprise. We've been working hard on this one. It has been five months of looking for locations and getting the tricks done, so it should be out in October time."

MacAskill set up the Drop and Roll show with friend and fellow trials cyclist Duncan Shaw, of Inverness.

"Myself and Duncan started Drop and Roll as a way of working as a team," says MacAskill.

"I suppose from 2009 to 2013, things changed for me quite a lot. I was travelling a lot and making films. I am not complaining about it, but you spend quite a lot of time by yourself. I really enjoy doing these live shows and enjoy the people's reactions to them.

"It is really good fun to be touring around with friends."

Image caption Gun have never performed at Belladrum before

On another part of the sprawling Bella site, Glasgow-based band Gun are taking a chance of some relaxation before their show.

While no strangers to the Highlands having played across the region including Drumnadrochit and Wick, Friday night's performance marks the band's first appearance as a group at the festival.

But band member Dante Gizzi has had a taste of the Highland event before, having previously performed there with El Presidente.

He says: "Bella has a great atmosphere. It is a festival for music lovers. It is very family orientated and there is such a wide variety of stuff going on here, but I think people really come for the music."

Paul McManus adds: "This was the festival we were most excited about because it was the one that we always wanted to play, and it is a very beautiful part of the world to come to and play this show."

Image copyright BBC Alba

Giuliano Gizzi says: "As Gun we have played a lot of festivals before, but never Bella.

"We are Belladrum virgins," he adds with a laugh. "We are looking forward to it. Looking forward to playing some songs off the Frantic album. it will be good fun."

Dante says festivals form an important part of the band's work in reaching out to audiences.

He says: "You are playing to a wider audience, to people who maybe have never heard your music before.

"We are also here for some other bands and it will be great to check them out. I think that is great about doing festivals," he adds.

McManus says: "Our friends are here, including the band White, and we are looking forward to seeing them.

"There is a real contemporary mix here at Bella and it is good to be amongst all of that.

"That is where Gun feels most comfortable. We play more melodic, more cross-over, so this is a great festival for us rather than some of the more edgy type of rock festivals that some people associate with us. So, yes, playing festivals like Bella is very important for us."

More on this story